September 10, 2015 11:01:27 AM
Almost 8,000 Starkville homes will have first access to MaxxSouth 1 gigabit, fiber Internet service by mid-to-late October as the company plans to activate the infrastructure phases, company officials announced Wednesday.
MaxxSouth Broadband President and CEO Peter Kahelin said the service is now ready to transfer from the engineering and testing phases to active service in the Cotton District and the Hiawassee area near the hospital, which will initially expose 3,500 homes.
Other neighborhoods - including Green Oaks, Oktibbeha Gardens, Timbercove and South Montgomery - will come online in rapid succession.
Engineering efforts will continue in other Starkville neighborhoods this year. While Kahelin did not say the company has a timeline to finish the entire city's build, he did say it is looking to expand to outlying county areas - 16th Section Road, south of Poorhouse Road and Diamond Cove, specifically - that have enough customers to make the service - the cost to build out the infrastructure - a viable step for MaxxSouth.
The company is also willing to directly link fiber access to large apartment complexes that have bulk agreements with MaxxSouth, he said.
"(County expansion) to us seems like a natural fit. Our job is to serve the whole community. There might only be three people on a street that wants the service, but we're going to build to the entire area because that's our commitment," he said. "We have 3,500 homes ready to go to market right now. Every week, we'll be adding more. We'll hit the 4,500 mark quickly, and it will just grow from there. You're looking at 7,800 homes done in a very short time."
The month-to-month cost for the 1 gigabit residential service is $77.95. Kahelin said MaxxSouth will also offer yearly contracts for the services at a slightly discounted rate: $69.95 per month.
The company will keep its traditional Internet packages, while officials explore different tiers of speeds and costs with the fiber option, he said.
"Things change month to month. We're not going to lock you into something that might be great today, but you might want to consider something different in the future," Kahelin said. "A good cable company is a partnership. We need to do our job. If we're not, then you should have the right to walk away. It keeps us on our toes and it means we don't take you for granted.
Starkville quickly became one of the few cities in the U.S. to have two 1 gigabit Internet service providers battling for customers after C Spire and MaxxSouth pledged to expand their infrastructure in the last two years.
C Spire came first in 2013, announcing Starkville would be one of a few select Mississippi cities competing to become the state's first to receive the high-speed service. The company divided each city into "fiberhoods" based upon geography and population density. Pre-registration efforts, which carried a $10 fee per home, were used to measure interest and guide which areas would first receive the service.
Since then, four "fiberhoods" have qualified for the service. The residents of the South Montgomery, Timbercove/College Station/Polos and Hiwassee/Reed Road/Hospital neighborhoods have access to the service, while C Spire's website says the Cotton District/Downtown/Historic Central Starkville "fiberhood" is still in the engineering phase.
Six other "fiberhoods" have yet to qualify for the service. The two closest to hitting their pre-registration marks - Blackjack and University Hills/Highlands - both lack about 130 signups, while the other four "fiberhoods" vary from at least 200 registrants in Oktibbeha Gardens/Old West Point Road to 736 in Crossgates Avalon/Lakeside.
C Spire offers its 1 gigabit Internet connection at $80 per month - long-term contracts are required - but existing customers are discounted $10 per month. Both companies offer bundles for Internet, TV and home phone services, or all three.
"It's pretty amazing what the city's done, with (Mayor Parker Wiseman) announcing he wants Starkville to be one of the major tech centers of Mississippi. This is one of the reasons we were so excited to come down here after acquiring the company," Kahelin said. "Starkville has it right; what Wiseman is looking to build here is exactly what we want to be part of."
Competition, he said, will only help both companies offer better services for residents.
"We like it because it makes us sharper, keeps us on our toes, makes sure you never take a customer for granted and it says when you make a mistake, you better own up to it right away. No company would be trying to push the envelope with technology if (competition) wasn't here," he said.
MetroCast became MaxxSouth Broadband last fall after Block Communications Inc. completed its acquisition of the cable system last year. It has approximately 45,000 cable television subscribers and 110,00 homes passed, and its service territory includes 60 communities.
Starkville's relationship with C Spire is one that has bloomed in the past two years. Last year, aldermen approved a new telecommunications contract with the company for Internet services at the city's new administrative home under construction at the end of Main Street.
Its previous contract was with the former MetroCast.
The city is expected to partition a portion of its access and dedicate it toward improving public Wi-Fi connections in the downtown area.
C Spire also constructed a $23 million data processing center at Mississippi State University's Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park, a move that marked the first significant Oktibbeha County investment landed by the Golden Triangle Development LINK.
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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